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Fumigation is the spraying of certain dangerous chemicals to disinfect your environment or kill pests such as cockroaches, ticks, bugs, termites, rats, etc. It is a common practice to fumigate your environment when your pets, animals or farms is infested with ticks or mites.

The hazardous chemicals used in fumigating can pose a great risk to our health if we breathe it in or if it contacts our skin or mouth. Therefore, it’s very important that we take all necessary precautions to ensure that we do not touch, consume, or inhale these chemicals. In fact, at any time you can smell the chemical, you are within limits of toxicity. Sometimes, the chemicals used for fumigation may be odorless and these potentially pose a greater risk than all others, because the fact that you cannot smell it increases your chance of remaining in the environment and inhaling these toxic non-irritant fumes.

Signs of toxicity may be acute (drastic) with symptoms generally appearing within a few minutes or hours. Instant signs of toxicity include coughing, nausea (the feeling to vomit), vomiting, labored breathing, red itchy eyes, etc.

Chronic or long-term effects may not appear until long after exposure and in some cases these signs may not be easily associated with the poison. A study found out that both insecticides and herbicides significantly increased the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 70 per cent. Furthermore, long term exposure to these chemicals has been shown to produce cancer.

I implore you to get close to fumigators and ask them a few questions with regards to the hazards associated with their jobs. You will be amazed at the statistics and feedback.

For example, I had a short chat with a fumigator a couple of days ago, and he said, “I personally know of three fumigators who have died. That’s why I am scared of fumigating premises now. All I do is get the job and sub-contract it. This way I get the money without the hazard associated.” Amazing response!

It is evident that quite several fumigators have or are experiencing severe health conditions and even death because constant exposure to these chemicals has resulted in malfunction or damage of various organs in the body. Therefore, ALL fumigators are STRONLY ADVISED to wear all protective clothing necessary during fumigation as it would reduce the amount of toxic substance that gets into your bodies.

In addition, please note that it is not only the fumigator that is at risk. Anyone who is within the premises while fumigation is going would partake of the risk. So, if you must be within the vicinity during fumigation, please wear protective clothing such as overalls, goggles, boots, facemasks, etc. Or better still, keep away from the area for at least 24 hours

In fact, I advise that you prevent any undesired health consequences by asking the fumigation company for a written description of the chemicals being used. This information can help you to know more about the side effects and how to protect yourself.

Here are a few steps in adequately planning and preparing in advance before you fumigate;

  1. First, ensure you remove or safely store all foods and medications in sealed nylon bags. Other items that should be removed include toys, beddings, clothing, open water containers, etc. And in your refrigerator, empty ice and ice makers to prevent contamination.
  2. Secondly, if you have pets please relocate them and remove pet toys, bones, bedding, and food/water bowls. Before returning them back, wash the floor of their house with detergent and rinse with plenty of water. Afterwards, please do not throw any food or treat on the floor or surroundings because chemical residues can contaminate food/treats and harm your pet if ingested.
  3. Before you fumigate please vacate the premises and do not return until 24-48 hours after fumigation has been concluded because if you return immediately, the space may still contain these harmful chemicals.
  4. Before re-entry ensure adequate ventilation by leaving the doors and windows open for 15 to 30 hours. Fans can also be turned on to help disperse the fumes.
  5. Finally, it is imperative that you take note of some signs of toxicity such as coughing, the feeling to vomit, vomiting, labored breathing, red itchy eyes, and seek immediate medical attention as soon as you notice any of these signs develop.

Fumigation helps to rid your environment and animals of pests  but great caution should be exercised to avoid the dangers associated.

Adapted from Dr Femi Oboye, The Punch

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